Jesus and Divorce, A contemporary perspective

In 2002, Wipf and Stock Publishers published an excellent scholarly work by two highly respected evangelical authors, Gordon J. Wenham and William E. Heth. They tackle one of the more perplexing problems in New Testament exegesis (critical interpretation or study), that of Jesus’ uncompromising teaching on divorce and remarriage.

This topic is particularly relevant in the American Roman Catholic community because of the disproportionate number of annulments granted, an aberration addressed by the last several pontiffs. This has been chronicled in several books, both from a sympathetic and critical perspective.

First, there is little doubt among scholars as to the historical teaching of Jesus on divorce and remarriage: he absolutely prohibited it. The so-called exception clause to this prohibition in Matthew’s Gospel is generally presumed by Catholic scholars to refer to marriage within forbidden degrees of kinship according to Leviticus. It is typically considered to originate from Matthew or his community in response to a pastoral issue. Because of its highly Jewish flavor, Matthew’s Gospel is particularly sensitive to this issue.

Paul’s teachings, including the so-called Pauline Privilege accessed by Catholic canon law in annulment proceedings, though not specifically discussed under those terms, are also addressed.

Jesus and Divorce addresses this and other New Testament teachings on divorce in an even-handed manner that would be of particular interest to Roman Catholics. It offers an extensive critique and affirmation of Fr. Raymond F. Collins highly praised work Divorce and the New Testament, available from The Liturgical Press.

A Roman Catholic reader unfamiliar with scholarly exegesis would be overwhelmed by the book. However an informed reader of any Christian denomination would find it packed with useful information and helpful insights.

Gordon Wenham is the author of an outstanding commentary on Genesis as well.  He has written another book on the subject of marriage and divorce in the New Testament, and is worth checking out. I find him accessible, thorough, balanced, and orthodox, an uncommon combination today.

I highly recommend Jesus and Divorce to serious readers interested in exploring this problematic question.  The following is contact information from the publisher:

Wipf and Stock Publishers 199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401-2960

Tel: (541) 344-1528 Fax: (541) 344-1506

Ordering Inquiries:

I am confident you will find this book challenging and enlightening. It is particularly refreshing in contrast to permissive views on the subject that have infiltrated the Christian churches both at the magisterial and pastoral level. The authors take seriously the words of Jesus and their practical import for 21st century readers. Would that more scholars articulate this perspective with such clarity and acuity.

Focolare and Christian Community and Spirituality Books

One of the vibrant lay movements in the Church is Focolare. Founded by Chiara Lubich, who passed away in 2008, it promotes dialogue and Christian unity and community. It also advocates a modern, communitarian approach to Christian living.

New City Press is the publishing house of the Focolare movement in North America. It publishes accessible, attractive, authoritative books and media that explore theological foundations for faith and spirituality, ecumenical and interreligious initiatives, and connections between religion and human identity, relationships, and culture. I find it refreshing because it is not ideology-driven, and it is centrist and unity-building. It has an intellectual component as well as a pastoral one.

I recently reviewed select NCP titles on the Relevant Radio program “Morning Air with Sean Herriott.” You can listen to the archived interview on

New City Press published my book, Becoming Community in 2007, and I have experienced their publishing production cycle first hand. They have a rigorous editorial approach, resulting in quality, well written books. They are a streamlined operation that functions remarkably well. I found all of the titles below to be very worthwhile, particularly if you are interested in the Focolare charism.

For those wishing more detail about NCP and Focolare, please assess these links:

If you wish to order any of the books I reviewed, please use these links. Although they are also available through Amazon, please order through New City Press. Amazon takes a sizable cut of the purchase price, reducing significantly the amount due to author and publisher. See my  previous blog postings regarding the unscrupulous activities of Scamazon.

Close Encounters

I recently came across a book issued by WinePressPublishing (Get a load of them!) entitled “Close Encounters of the Heavenly Kind.” It is authored by Hilary Jones Rojo. The name itself stands out to me, sounding like the stage name of a Shakespearean thespian.

It is a short book, 76 pages, but a very interesting read. Hilary is a great story-teller and a fluid writer. Hilary has led an adventurous life, and she is able to communicate that well. When she shares her stories, you get the impression that you are in a dialogue with her.

This almost reads like a novel. and in a very real sense it is. It is a story of her experience of God’s love in everyday events, set against the background of salvation history and Catholic faith.

One of the nice things about the book is its brevity and conciseness. With today’s hectic pace and schedules, it is refreshing to encounter a book that won’t exhaust you or take a month or two to digest.

If you are interested in getting a copy of the book, or hearing Hilary speak, or listen to her radio program, and get these great stories more vividly, you can contact her and access her radio shows at Make it a “To be” rather than a “not to be” with Hilary Jones Rojo.

Personal Energy Management and Stress Transformation DVD

Two topical presentations for the price of one. And on a timely topic for chaotic times.

In 1995, Karl Schultz was professionally filmed at the Engineering Society of Western Pennsylvania on the subjects of Personal Energy Management and Stress Transformation. Each presentation was approximately an hour. The DVD length is 1 hour and 58 min. Schultz draws extensively from his books on these subjects, while also providing practical applications.  The DVD is available for $22.

If you wish to order the DVD, you may do so in two ways. Either send a check for the total amount, made out to Genesis Personal Development Center or Karl A. Schultz, at the following address:

3431 Gass Avenue; Pgh, Pa  15212-2239.

Or, send me your email address, and I will forward a Paypal payment request that you can validate. If you have any questions, please email me at or (412) 766-7545.

Female Accountability in an Increasingly Misandric Society

Female Accountability in an Increasingly Misandric Society

An overlooked yet serious sociological development of the last century has been women’s increasing immunity  to accountability, in marriage in particular, and in general. Women are generally accorded the benefit of the doubt and preferential treatment in conflicts with men, resulting in a tendency to expect favoritism.

However, it is important to qualify this. First, each person, relationship, and situation is unique. Sometimes the opposite dynamicprevails. We see this in cases of athletes, celebrities, politicians and millionaiers. Again, this is a generalization, because the courts often make examples of these people by scrutizining and punishing them disproportionately. Sometimes, there is a backlash. For example, journalists often exploit even the minor problems of celebrities.

Generally speaking, in my opinion, neither society in general nor the Church in particular insist on the accountability of women  This could be the topic of a whole book. For now, it can provoke discussion.

I wrote about this to Dr. Paul Nathanson, co-author with Dr. Katherine Young of a trilogy on misandry This is how he responded.

Most academics (let alone police officers, courts and legislators) are either unwilling or afraid to hold women accountable for anything–even though one major feminist doctrine has long been the need for society to stop infantilizing women, which would mean treating women as mature adults who must make moral choices, and another has been to reject double standards. (What interests these people are the rights of adulthood and not the responsibilities of adulthood, clearly, and double standards that work against women but not men.) Whether that hypocrisy is characteristic of most people, as distinct from academic and other elite “gatekeepers,” is another matter. I suspect that they rely less on ideology than on personal experience in daily life. Even so, I suspect, many of them hesitate before saying anything that might lead to the accusation of “sexism.”

Dr. Nathanson cited the following recent articles relevant to this discussion. 

February 7, 2010, New York Times: “Findings: Social Scientist Sees Bias Within,” by John Tierney. See also, the equally excellent essay in USA Today for February 3: “Domestic Violence Myths Help No One,” by Christina Hoff Sommers.

What do you think? Feel free to share any perspectives, observations, and experiences. We’d love to hear from you.

Straight From the Heart

Divine Monitor of the Heart

Joni Woelfel

Recently, my constant companion was a little black box that looked like a garage door opener attached to two wires and electrodes stuck by adhesive tape near my heart.  The reason being: to check a chronic, chest pressure problem.   My husband read all the directions that came with it in the mail and set it up for me.  All I had to do was press a button when I had what is called an event…and the device recorded it.  Then we called the cardiac service company and through a series of bleeps and noises, the findings got transmitted.  What a wonder of the modern age!

All this physical heart monitoring caused me to reflect on what it means to spiritually monitor the inner heart.  Scripture is literally brimming with insight.  We are to love God with all our heart, to allow the inner heart to prayerfully direct our ways.  We are told that God searches and strengthens the heart and knows all its secrets.  We are to commune with our hearts in the night and are asked to do so with courage, steadfastness, vigilance and integrity.  When our hearts feel stricken, pierced, faint, dull and withered like grass, God asks us to treasure his word and to allow wisdom to come into our hearts.   We are asked to not harden our hearts or to become proud with hearts of stone.  God asks that our hearts be pure and wide open.  His heart goes out to us and he asks us to love him with a whole heart.  He will even give us a new heart when we need one and says that out of a believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.  We are to love each other deeply from the heart and to have hearts that melt and burn within us.  We are to understand that God writes with encouragement on the tablets of our hearts and that he means it when he says we should not let our hearts be troubled.

The spirit is our constant companion, a transmitter between our heart and God’s.   Sometimes we wish that if only we could press a button, God would fly to our assistance or tell us what to do when we are worried, confused, facing trouble or have made a mistake.  When we turn inward to touch base with our conscience, we understand that God Himself lovingly monitors the events in our lives, waiting for us to pause, listen and allow him to help.  As you examine the heart of your conscience, what is God telling you?

I have a hope in God…therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience…  –Acts 24:15a, 16a

Between Friends Calling all Bridges: An Invitation

Between Friends
Calling all Bridges: An Invitation
By Joni Woelfel

Those who know me know that I like to found imaginary clubs.  For instance, there is my Ruby Red Forgiveness Club, my Holy Order of Misfits Club and my Jam and Jelly Journal Club.  In essence, these clubs are meant to serve as communities for like-minded folks.  We all have the innate desire to “belong” somewhere, to feel welcome, wanted, valued and like we have something to contribute.  Thus, we are drawn to friends and colleagues who resonate with our view of the world and who we are.  However, as a wise person once said, “We learn the most from friends who are not like us.”

The more diverse our friends are, the more multi-dimensional our way of viewing the world becomes.  Having friends whose beliefs are different than ours stretch and challenge us.   It teaches us how to have insightful conversations without feeling our character is judged or disapproved of.   Through the years, I’ve written a lot about the bridge of friendship.  It spans canyons of discord in the world and is a faith perspective we are called to by Jesus himself who devoted his life to his friends—meaning all of us.

The rifts in our churches today appall us.  Why can’t people get on board with good manners we wonder?  The inflammatory discourse between those who disagree creates an adversarial culture that promotes self-righteousness, segregation and rejection.   We wound each other and lack the compassion to care that we do so.  There is one mature perspective alone which can heal:  we would not treat our friends this way. How many of us are daring enough to stretch our hearts across the great divide—to be that empowering bridge that sets the tone and example?   Who will join my imaginary Calling All Bridges club? Make a list of your friends and colleagues who are the most different from you.  In what ways have they enriched or taught you something important about yourself?

I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.  –John 15:15b

Radical Love: Following the Way of Jesus

 Radical Love: Following the Way of Jesus

Copyright 2010, $9.95, Paulist Press

By Adolfo Quezada

Review by Joni Woelfel

If ever there was a book needed by our country during these times of tragedy and unrest, it is Radical Love: Following the Way of Jesus, by Adolfo Quezada.  A well-known author who maintained a private psychotherapy practice and led spiritual retreats and seminars for over twenty years, Quezada is a long-time resident of Tucson, AZ.  Some of his books include Loving Yourself for God’s Sake, Heart Peace, Sabbath Moments, Rising From the Ashes ( and Compassionate Awareness (

He writes in the preface:  “This was my experience.  The love of God overtakes us when we least expect it.  Sometimes our awareness of divine love is gradual; other times it is sudden: always it is profound and transformational.  This book is called Radical Love not because the love of Jesus was extreme, though it was, but because his belief in love was deeply rooted in his own intimate and familiar relationship with God.  To be “radical” is to go to the root or origin of something. Radical love needs no reciprocation or appreciation and it does not require a certain set of circumstances in order to exist.  Conditions may change or fall away, but radical love exists for its own sake.”

 Quezada explains, “In radical love we come to God not so that our labor or the burden we carry may be lifted from us, but so that we can confront life as one with God.  For Jesus, service to others was the spontaneous action prompted by a contemplative heart.  He did not value prayer over service anymore than he valued service over prayer.  Radical love is not passive.  Instead we release our illusions of power, perfection, privilege and control.  We give up narcissism and egocentricity.  We yield to divine intelligence.   The power of Radical love comes from its inclusiveness, it does not conquer the world by force or might. Radical love is free.  It cannot be coerced in any way.  It cannot be bought and it is not owned.   Radical love has the power to change our character, to govern our impulses, soften our enmity and ennoble our treatment of others.  But loving others does not mean that we allow them to take advantage of us or manipulate us into doing what they want us to do.  Radical love compels us to be honest with those whom we love, but to do so we must first be true to ourselves. Radical love builds where hate destroys; it pacifies where aggression disturbs; and it opens where pride closes.”

Quezada says that Radical love opens our minds to possibilities, moves us to honor and respect others and to not insist on being right all the time.  “Instead, we listen with open minds to what others believe to be true. Radical love breaks the cycle of retribution and frees us to be different from our perpetrators.  When we come to the edge of our limitations, when we run out of runway, when of ourselves we can expect nothing—that is when we dare to hope.  In our inadequacy, we hope in the supreme adequacy of God.”

In this multi-layered , thought- provoking book, Quezada reminds us to respond to life with mercy, forgiveness and peace—not peace at any cost or peace that shies away from necessary confrontation; neither is it the peace that guarantees calm and tranquility.    Peace has to do with how we respond to the moment before us.  It does not come with the removal of external problems but with the internal awareness that we are not alone as we face them.  The cross is the symbol of our wounded world. Radical love is the divine energy that awakens our concern for the welfare of others and moves us to act on their behalf, even at great sacrifice to ourselves. We are not motivated by the need to be needed; rather, our actions are consequences of loving radically.  Nothing is expected except for congruence between who we are and what we do.”

As We Put Away Christmas

Between Friends

A column by Joni Woelfel, copyright 2011

As We Put Away Christmas

You would think that after all these years, I’d understand that growth is sporadic.  Somehow, I keep thinking that growth should be of a gradual, progressively ascending, sensible nature.  Case in point:  Our Christmas Amaryllis plant this year did not get off to a good start.  After we’d placed the large bulb into the specially prepared soil in the pot and watered it well, it immediately grew a shoot—only the cat ate the top off, leaving a beat-up looking stub.  So, back to square one, I watered it some more and expected a second shoot.  None came.  A few days went by, a week—two weeks.  Nothing

This whole idea of growing an Amaryllis as part of our Advent journey was so we could watch it ultimately bloom on Christmas Day.  However, our dead-beat, disappointing Amaryllis bulb was not inspiring me and I sure hated the idea of having to throw it out due to failure to thrive.  Or in this case, not grow at all!

The Amaryllis symbolizes the mystery of something wonderful rising from nothing—and reminds me of how my own faith grows from secret hidden places like the bulb buried beneath the soil. Truth be told, sometimes our faith resembles the beat-up stub.  We hope for something that is not happening and the lifeless bulb serves well as a metaphor of seemingly dismal situations we all encounter from time to time as we face the daily troubles of life.

 Finally I moved the non-growing Amaryllis from the kitchen island to the top of the fireplace and forgot about it.  The next day, however, I did a double-take as I passed by it, because several hearty two-inch green shoots had suddenly sprouted! As the days passed, they continued to literally soar to the height of nearly two feet, culminating with seven beautiful buds which burst forth into giant cherry-red blossoms the week of Christmas and on Christmas day.  Eventually, one by one, the blossoms faded and died, until none remained and the stalk withered.  The pot now sits in a cool, dark storage room, the bulb waiting to grow again next Christmas when I offer it three vital elements: light, warmth and water.

As we put away our Christmas decorations, the season now passed and already forgotten, we do not put our faith and optimism away for another year, but rather, understand that dormancy, waiting, blossoming, withering and beginning again is the journey of Emmanuel being reborn in our hearts all our lives through.  Continually growing something miraculous from nothing—this is the perpetual gift of the spirit within. During dark times, it is good for us to remember that what we plant in the soil of the new year can be misery, anger and intolerance, or it can be radical love, friendship and the courage it takes to make a difference.  In what ways do you bring light, warmth and living water to your faith and how do you plan on offering it to this turbulent world?  (end.)   


Eleven Overlooked Beatles Classics: Songs You Probably Haven’t Heard (at least for awhile), But Should Have

11 Classic Beatles Songs That Get Overlooked

This Boy

I’ll Be Back

If I Fell

And Your Bird Can Sing


She’s Leaving Home

Two of Us

You Won’t See Me


I’ll Follow the Sun

I am the Walrus

Your humble (?) Beatleologist, Karl A. Schultz

Disagree with my list? Send feedback, or your selections. Just don’t start a Revolution.